Sunday, June 21, 2015

Was Grover Cleveland actually Jack the Ripper?

So I'm sitting in the bar at our local Old Chicago pizza-pub today. I had just seen Jurassic World, the sequel that combines words from two previous movies in its title, one word of which was inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. ("World" as in The Lost World.) And as I'm sitting there, a commercial comes on one of the dozen flat screen TVs prominently featuring Conan Doyle.

Not sure if that TV was playing a sports channel or a pub quiz, but what I saw was the following question:

"Was Arthur Conan Doyle actually Jack the Ripper?"

The ad went on to promote a book that I won't even mention here, as I really hate to publicize claptrap that a few lucky Sherlockians might happily otherwise miss. (As opposed to, say, a network television show.)  And the book really doesn't matter. What matters is that damned commercial, on a screen in a public place, where the thought being placed in the mind of any bored patron browsing the multiple TVs was this . . . .

Conan Doyle = Jack the Ripper.

Of course, most folks knowledgeable enough to know that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories probably aren't going to take such an allegation seriously. And it doesn't take much of a net search to find Doyle listed among the most ridiculous Ripper suspects ever. But you know there's some idiot out there who had a few too many beers and was liable to go home and tell his kids, "You know the guy who wrote those Sherlock Holmes stories was probably Jack the Ripper."

Or maybe I'm just being a pessimist, having had my lunch interrupted with such a stupid, stupid idea being used to promote a book.

Personally, if we're going to go silly, I think we should promote the idea that the U.S. president of that time, Grover Cleveland was really Jack the Ripper. Say he gave Britain some ground over Canadian fishing rights for a free hand at killing a few prostitutes in a country other than his own. (A bachelor president at first, Cleveland had only recently married a 21-year-old college girl, so who knows what bad habits he was trying to purge with a London spree.) Grover Cleveland needs a little juicy gossip added to his historical record, and Conan Doyle certainly doesn't -- fairies and ghosts cover those bases nicely.

The idea of Grover Cleveland as the Ripper may be pretty darned ridiculous. But we live in a world where the media likes to promote any goofball thought produces a headline, marketing people have even less scruples, and Conan Doyle just got publicized as Jack the Ripper in a Peoria restaurant bar.

Sherlock Holmes is becoming a better and better role model for us all the time . . . as a man who made it a point to find the truth behind every outlandish tale that came his way.

Because we're getting a lot of those these days.


  1. I debated even putting that work in my chronological Reference List of Autobiographies, Biographies, and Qusi-biographies of ACD, but here is how I ended up listing it:

    In “The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle: A Journey into Madness & Mayhem”, Daniel Friedman MD and Eugene Friedman MD, a father-and-son team exposes the similarities of two very strange men, Jack the Ripper and Arthur Conan Doyle. Sherlockian scholar and historian Peter E. Blau commented, “I've just finished reading "The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle" . . . god help anyone who thinks it's a biography of Conan Doyle!” After reconsidering his first comment Peter’s revised review stated it this way, “The Strange Case of Dr. Doyle, by Daniel and Eugene Friedman (Garden City: Square One, 2015; 339 pp., $29.95), is sub-titled as "a journey into madness & mayhem," and is written in alternate chapters, offering a biography of Conan Doyle and a description of a tour he led in 1910 along the trail of Jack the Ripper's murders. The tour is invented, but allows the authors to explain their conclusions about the Ripper, and the dust jacket's front flap promises that ‘if you maintain a sharp mind and a keen eye, at the end of your journey you may just uncover a truth you never expected to find.’ They're certainly correct.”

  2. Hey, man - I believe it. And Abraham Lincoln was a Vampire Hunter, too! I read that in a book somewhere, so it must be true. Right?